Not everyone wants a new iPhone.
James Rhodes and his wife Mary Ethel are Old Order Mennonites, born and raised near the farm town of Dayton, Virginia.
Like the Amish, the "Plain People" favor church and community over modern technology, and consider plainness of dress and speech to be virtues.
This photo essay illustrates some of the joys and challenges of daily life for the Rhodes family.
A FEW COMMENTS:
For 30 years I have lived near the Old Order Amish settlement in Kalona, IA, which follows a very similar tradition to Old Order Mennonite. The Amish people do not like to be photographed, so I was a little surprised to see a whole photo essay that looked like it could have been shot right here. Drivinig past a newer "colony" in northern Iowa I have been surprised to see Amish boys in their suspenders and straw hats on Rollerblades WAVING at the passing cars!
I agree with Sadrami that they people in the dark clothes look happy and the families are close, but (just like with my grandmother's Depression-era dairy farm) the life is much different under the surface.
I know that some of the women ask their doctors for sterilization rather than bear a 10th or 15th child. (The nurse midwife who shared this secret said she has to tell the women "it doesn't take five minutes and it doesn't cost $5.) A friend who hired an Amish quilting club to handquilt several of the quilts she had pieced together, and when she brought them a Wedding Ring design the Amish ladies agreed to do it, but explained that they would need to hide it from their husbands, because rings were considered "worldly" and not approved in their faith.
Just more to think about when tempted to romanticize a society that's different from our own.
I am Mennonite. Actually, part of a more modern, contemporary branch named Mennonite Brethern. The easiest way to describe MB's is that we hold true to the belief that one of the most important parts of being a Christian is looking out for your fellow human beings. Doing all we can to make sure people who are hungry get fed, that people have roofs over their heads and that everyone who desires is provided an education.
We also strongly believe that taking a life is abhorent; yes we are pacifists. We believe that each person has an individual, personal relationship with God based on Biblical teachings and not some doctrine thought up, created and taught by man. One of the great things about being a Mennonite is that we believe each person must search to understand what the Bible teaches and how it applies to us an individual and as a church body and how we can use that relationship to help make the world a better place. Lofty ideas? Sure. But if each individual would make an effort to consistently show even the smallest kindness to another, every day, we could ease a lot of the suffering we see around us.
Are we a cult? Well, we've been around since the reformation and never once have tortured or burned someone at the stake for leaving the church. The physical church is just a building. The spiritual church is in the human soul. Look up the definition of cult, do some research and decide for yourself. You'll discover we are not.
Do we have all the answers? Definitely not. But we do continually strive to find them. We've discovered that it's better to deal with our own individual relationship with God than to dictate to others what theirs should be. Quite a simplistic view of things, but it works.
Oh, and not all Mennonites drive buggys. My aunt drives a Mercedes and has a beautiful home near Santa Barbara. She also tithes 10% of her money and 15% of her time to missionary work in developing countries. Is that the way to heaven? No. Should eveyone be required to do that? No, unless you can. It helps to make life easier for those who don't have as much and it feels good, too.
Lastly, I am gay and I have yet to hear in my 51 years that I'm going to burn in hell. Would it be better that I were heterosexual? Maybe, but only because my parents want grandkids, LOL. Then again, they do find the time to ask my boyfriend when we're going to adopt. There's much more, but that's my ten cents worth.
I grew up in a community that was mostly Mennonite. They were not Old Order, but did still hold onto the ideas of simplicity, family, and hard work. And, although I was raised Catholic, I spent several summers going to Mennonite Bible Day-Camp. I think that may have shaped my world outlook more than anything else. Though I type this on a computer, I do not have cable TV, internet at home (I'm in a cafe), and am one of those people who is much more apt to just fix something that is broken myself instead of calling a repairman.
And if you have not had the chance to sample a Mennonite pie or jam, TAKE THE TIME!